Wanstead Flats

Wanstead Flats, Redbridge

One of the largest expanses of common land in urban London – but it does not compare with Hampstead Heath or Wimbledon Common because it is so featureless

Wanstead Flats - Giles Williams

Wanstead Flats con­sti­tute the south­ern­most part of Epping For­est but most of the trees were cleared sev­er­al cen­turies ago. The area was for­mer­ly known as the Low­er For­est or Wanstead Heath and com­mon­ers had ‘rights of tur­bary’ here, which meant that they could dig peat for fuel.

In the late 18th cen­tu­ry an annu­al mar­ket for cat­tle from Wales, Scot­land, and the north of Eng­land took place from the end of Feb­ru­ary to the begin­ning of May.

Com­mon­ers con­sis­tent­ly resist­ed attempt­ed encroach­ments by neigh­bour­ing landown­ers and fought legal bat­tles with Lord Morn­ing­ton, Earl Cow­ley and oth­ers from the 1850s until the flats were pre­served under the Epping For­est Act of 1878.

Wanstead Flats
Wanstead Flats

From lat­er in the 19th cen­tu­ry until the out­break of the First World War, an East­er plea­sure fair was held here.

Alexan­dra Pond (col­lo­qui­al­ly Alex Pond) was cre­at­ed in 1906–7 and named in hon­our of Edward VII’s queen-con­sort, Alexan­dra of Den­mark.

Dames Road Pond (also known as the Mod­el Yacht Pond) was redesigned as a con­ser­va­tion and wildlife fea­ture in 2002 and renamed the Jubilee Pond. By the time of Her Majesty’s next jubilee seri­ous prob­lems of water loss had become evi­dent, neces­si­tat­ing a fur­ther pro­gramme of enhance­ments that have includ­ed the instal­la­tion of a new imper­me­able lin­ing.

Forty fire engines and more than 225 fire­fight­ers tack­led a large grass fire on Wanstead Flats in July 2018.

Postal districts: E7, E11 and E12
Website: Wanstead Wildlife: Wanstead Flats
See also: Aldersbrook


* The picture entitled Leytonstone evening at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph at Flickr, copyright Giles Williams, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. The small picture of Wanstead Flats is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Dave Marley, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of those licences.